Mazda scored victory in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, in what turned into a survival of the fittest in the battle for the DPi title, which went the way of Acura Team Penske and drivers Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor by a single point.
Harry Tincknell took the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P to a 10.154-second win over the No. 6 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 of Dane Cameron following a late-race restart due to debris from a tire issue on the No. 77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis.
Jarvis had been leading at the time, in what appeared set to be a 1-2 finish for the Japanese manufacturer.
The issue to the left-rear tire relegated the Englishman to third in the race, but still on the lead lap.
Tincknell shared top honors with Jonathan Bomarito and NTT IndyCar Series star Ryan Hunter-Reay.
It marked the first major endurance win for the Japanese manufacturer in WeatherTech Championship competition, courtesy of all three DPi title contenders hitting trouble in the drama-filled race.
A boost-related issue that required a left-side intercooler change put the pole-sitting and championship-leading No. 7 Team Penske Acura of Ricky Taylor behind the wall in the opening hour.
While initially appearing to be out of the title hunt — 11 laps down to the leaders — Taylor and Castroneves charged back after the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs from Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing also both faced setbacks.
Contact with the No. 77 Mazda led to a right-rear puncture for Scott Dixon in the WTR machine late in the fifth hour, resulting in a trip to the garage for a replacement right-side radiator and ultimately costing championship contenders Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe five laps.
It had put the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac of Pipo Derani — who needed to win in order to have a chance of taking the title — into the catbird seat until contact with Juan Pablo Montoya while battling for the lead with less than three hours to go.
Derani out-braked Montoya into the hairpin only for the Colombian to make contact with the Cadillac on the exit.
The two collided again on the following lap, with Derani’s car sustaining steering damage and the Brazilian handed a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility. The No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi dropped to fourth at the time.
The pair of incidents, which relegated the Nos. 31 and 10 Cadillacs to sixth and seventh place finishes, respectively, was enough for Castroneves and Taylor to take the title despite finishing last in class and seven laps down from the winning Mazda.
It marked Castroneves’ first-ever drivers’ championship in his career, in what was likely the Brazilian’s final race with Team Penske.
Ricky Taylor, meanwhile, picked up a second IMSA title, also in his final outing with the team prior to his expected return to WTR next year with Acura.
The second-place finish for the No. 6 entry solidified the manufacturers’ championship to Acura, while the No. 85 JDC-Miller was the best of the Cadillacs in fourth.
It came courtesy of a late-race incident between the No. 5 Mustang Sampling-sponsored JDC car and the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19 that dropped the Sebastien Bourdais-driven car to fifth.
PR1/Mathiasen Dominates LMP2 Race
LMP2 class honors went to the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Simon Trummer, Patrick Kelly and Scott Huffaker, which won by a commanding two laps over the competition.
Bronze-rated Kelly stormed out into a one-lap lead early — largely on pace — prior to various issues from the three other cars in the class.
Most notably, it included a heavy crash in the fourth hour by the No. 51 Inter Europol Competition Oreca of Kuba Smiechowski, which had been leading at the time.
The No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks entry came home second in class with the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca completing the class podium in third.
RESULTS: Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring